Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – the important things in life

Oct 13
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Often, we hear people complaining about having too much to do with too little time. Achieving a good balance between work, family and personal time can be tough when things in your life seem too much to handle and 24 hours in a day is not enough.

How do you figure out your priorities and still make room for all of the important stuff? We like the Rocks, Pebbles, Sand analogy so we thought we’d share it with you. It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

The Story

There was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture. In front of him he had a big glass jar. He started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full.

Is it full?

He then picked up a tub of small pebbles and poured these in jar so that they filled the space around the big rocks. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full.

Is it really full?

The professor then picked up another container, this time it had sand in it. He poured the sand in between the pebbles and the rocks and once again he held up the jar to his class and asked if it was full. Once again the students agreed that the jar was full.

“Are you sure it’s full?” he asked. He finally picked up a bottle of water and tipped the water into the jar until it filled up all the remaining space. The students laughed.

Filling up your Life

The jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things that have real value – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, house, car, clothes and so forth.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

Make room for the important

If you fill the jar up first with the sand, you won’t have space for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Spend time with your family. Take your partner out dancing. Go for a good meal. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

Submitted by Criterion Content Team

Criterion Content Team

This post has been written by the Criterion Conferences Content Team. Based in Sydney, we are an independent research organisation, producing over 90 conferences a year across a variety of industries. Our events, attended by thousands of senior delegates from the public and private sector, are designed to enrich, inspire and motivate. Our focus is on providing innovative, value adding content via our conferences and blogs like this are extension of that principle. You can view our conferences by visiting our website

4 thoughts on “Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – the important things in life

  1. I am a pebbles person and am teaching my children this philosophy…don’t waste time on little .”imaginings”

  2. I tell the same story, but I see it from another viewpoint. We see the jar full of rocks and say, it is full. It cannot hold any more. But then we put in the gravel, and we insist, yes it is full. We add sand to it and are sure of ourselves that we are right, the jar is totally full. Then we fill it with water. Sometimes we are very very sure of ourselves that we are right. We totally believe it, without question. But our view could be limited. Maybe we don’t have all the knowledge, or maybe we don’t have the point of view, or maybe we have a limited awareness. Maybe we are just plain wrong. That’s why we need to open our minds and hearts and listen to others.

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